Jose Mourinho has returned to Chelsea and now its seems only one person is currently standing in his way of becoming a Premier League winner again at Stamford Bridge.
That man is present Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers. The forty-one year old is a former protege of Jose’s at Chelsea. Unlike Mourinho’s other famous former underling, Andre Villas-Boas, Rodgers remains on good terms with the ‘Special One’.
In fact when you hear Jose talking about Rodgers you feel he takes pride in how the Liverpool manager has become a successful gaffer and he seems to take a bit of credit in it too.
You can see it in his glowing statement here…
“He was always a very open guy, open to learn, open to give his opinion, very interested in the game. We like him very much, me and my staff, we liked him very much since he started working with us.
“He’s at one of the top clubs in England, one of the top clubs in the world. His ambitions now are to win titles at a big club.”
The respect is of course mutual and Rodgers is always quick to praise his former boss. When other sides complain or moan at Jose’s antics and mind games, Rodgers will defend Mourinho and will also back him up.
Rodgers will always be grateful for the chance Jose Mourinho gave him at Chelsea but he clearly wants to step out of his shadow. As this Brendan Rodgers quote shows…
“I have learnt a lot from Jose. He is a great man and we remain close, but we are two different people.”
Now this love-in has worked for both coaches so far this term. But now they head into the final straight neck and neck in the title race. Somethings got to give! On the 27th of April, both sides will face off at Anfield knowing that a win for either of them could see them champions of England. Although Manuel Pellegrini’s Man City might have something to say about that.
Jose has been there and seen it all before. For Rodgers and his Liverpool side it’s a new and exciting experience.
Now I said Jose has been here before, but that isn’t quite the case. Because usually he’s up against a rival that he can rile and wind up. So far this season he seems reluctant to try and do that with his former apprentice Rodgers.
He may respect Brendan and like him too much to put the boot in or maybe he believes that Brendan Rodgers knows all his tricks and they won’t work on him.
Or perhaps Jose will wait for the build up to the match to really start and then he may comment on Liverpool’s bottle, experience and give them the overwhelming favourites tag. He could go for the soft digs to the ribs rather than the usual kick to the balls approach that seems to work against Wenger, Benitez and Pellegrini.
People will point to Jose’s relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson and say that the respect between them is similar to that of Jose and Brendan. True, up to a point, but never forget that Jose still liked to put one over on the old master. He will be conscience that Rodgers will be seen as the young pup biting at his own heels. Can he really let the younger man get the early advantage over him?
Don’t worry Chelsea fans, Jose will have plenty of other targets that he will use to inspire his team for the Liverpool clash. The fixture falls in between both legs of the Champions League semi-final ties and any controversy in that first leg will be used to spur his men on. He will no doubt question the media and claim they hate Chelsea and that everyone wants to see Liverpool as the league champions and lookout for digs at the referee. These are all tried and trusted methods that Mourinho uses to build an ‘us against them’ attitude in the dressing room. It rallies the troops and gets them hungry for success and to prove everyone wrong.
I can’t believe he won’t try and provoke Rodgers in some way. As I said he will probably question the Liverpool side’s mentality and heap the pressure on them. I also think he will insinuate in someway that he has taught Brendan Rodgers everything he knows and that he knows everything in the Rodgers tactical notebook.
Would Rodgers retaliate? I doubt it. He will laugh Jose’s comments off, be humble and say that all the pressure is on Chelsea. He could also use any potential Mourinho comments to fire up his own team and get them to prove Jose wrong and do it for the fans!
For once, the seasons big title decider may just be left to the pitch and won’t be started in the press conferences beforehand.
One thing is for sure. If the winner of this match does end up winning the league then they will forever have one up on the other. Should it be Rodgers then expect a very different Jose next season, if it’s Mourinho then I think Brendan will wonder if he can ever conquer the league and outmanoeuvre his former teacher.
For me, I’d choose a Liverpool win or a draw at this moment in time. I think Rodgers has shown already that he can unite his team and get them to deliver on the big days especially at Anfield. I also admire the way he uses the Liverpool fans to really create the best possible atmosphere at Anfield. His own players seem to thrive playing at home while opposing players seem to falter under the huge noise. But if anyone can mastermind a surprise away victory at Anfield it has to be Jose. So its not all cut and dried yet!